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15-25 August 2011

The Wonderland Trail is a 93-mile hiking route encircling Mt. Rainier. Over its course, it climbs from rainforest to alpine meadow and back again, again and again, gaining and losing over 20,000 feet of elevation. Hiking its entire length in one push is equivalent to climbing and descending the mountain twice.

Mike, Hannah and I took eleven days out this summer to do it. We traveled clockwise, starting in Longmire on 15 August, and returning to our starting point on 25 August. Our route was a slight variation on the textbook Wonderland, opting to hike over Spray Park rather than descend to Ipsut Creek. Except for a cache of food we mailed ahead to the Mowich Lake Ranger Station, we carried all our own gear.

This was one for the bucket list. Eleven days in the field is borderline cheating the world, but hardly enough to take it all in. It was an incredible experience.

The National Park Service issues a limited number of permits. Reservations are taken, if you're willing to nail down your itinerary months in advance. Here's ours:

day from to mileage
1 Longmire Devil's Dream 5.7
2 Devil's Dream South Puyallup 6.8
3 South Puyallup Golden Lakes 11.5
4 Golden Lakes Eagle's Roost 12.3
5 (rest) 0.0
6 Eagle's Roost Carbon River 6.5
7 Carbon River Granite Creek 8.9
8 Granite Creek White River 8.2
9 White River Indian Bar 11.1
10 Indian Bar Maple Creek 11.2
11 Maple Creek Longmire 10.0

This is somewhat different from the itinerary I faxed the Park Service on 1 April. It's based on my friend Peter's trip from 2006, but that dude is a beast - midway through the trip, we had a ranger change it a bit to even out the last few days.

I liked all the campsites except for Golden Lakes and White River (a car-camping spot). If I did it again, I would probably want to spend more time at Mystic and Summerland - and drop the rest day, since the jaunt to Carbon River is short enough.

It'd be very easy to devise a nine- or even eight-day trip along these lines, but it's satisfying to take your time.

Further reading: